Democratic gubernatorial candidate Raymond F. Schoenke Jr., who is paying for his campaign largely with his personal fortune, declared yesterday he would accept no money from "special interest" political action committees in general and the gambling industry specifically.
Calling on his opponents to do the same, Schoenke said the move was necessary to assure the public that he would not be beholden to such interest groups.
"We have to make a statement that we will return the government back to the people," Schoenke said during a news conference in downtown Baltimore. "The State House is not for sale."
Schoenke's opponents quickly dismissed his move as grandstanding made possible by his own deep pockets.
Schoenke, a former Washington Redskin who owns an insurance brokerage in Montgomery County, has said he will spend some $2 million of his own during the campaign.
He has also been raising money from others, focusing in part on the business people he met selling insurance.
Schoenke said he would continue to accept contributions from corporations and individuals, saying such donations do not carry the same "perception" that comes with a check from a PAC.
"In no way do we want to create a conflict," Schoenke said, adding that he would return an unspecified amount of contributions already collected from PACs.
While Schoenke supports allowing horse-racing tracks to install state-owned slot machines, he said he would not accept any money from people directly connected to "gaming or gambling."
Schoenke's opponents quickly rejected his call for a moratorium on PAC contributions.
"We're not going to say blindly that we're going to turn down PAC money," said Peter Hamm, campaign spokesman for incumbent Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who is seeking re-election.
"It's basically admirable what he's doing," Hamm said of Schoenke. "He certainly can afford to do so because of his personal net worth."
Another Democratic candidate, Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, who has received significant financial support from people connected with gambling and horse racing, will continue to accept "legal contributions," a spokesman said.
"It's certainly easy for a millionaire who is trying to buy an election to turn down all contributions," said spokesman George F. Harrison. "The rest of us, however, need to get contributions. If anyone knows Eileen Rehrmann, she is not beholden to anyone."
Pub Date: 6/12/98